UWI, Western campus poised for more growth
MONTEGO BAY, St James – A building that will house an engineering lab, courtesy of contractors working on the MoBay bypass, is expected to be a vital part of the future growth of the 15-year-old Western Jamaica Campus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI).
The structure, which will be part of the operational base used by China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), is being built in Irwin, St James, on lands owned by The UWI. The building is expected to be handed over to the university when the road work is completed at the end of 2025.
“That infrastructure that is being built out there is going to be repurposed to support teaching and learning, especially in our engineering department,” said principal of The UWI, Professor Densil Williams.
He was speaking with the Jamaica Observer on the sidelines of a recent honours society event at the university’s Queens Drive, Montego Bay campus.
“The engineering programme is going to be a very important part of our global offering as well; and the lab that is being created might actually help to provide a kind of a safe space for our engineers to start to work with their practical experience,” he explained.
Williams said there was the possibility that some engineering students could get time in the lab even before it is handed over to the university.
The site has been under construction for the past few months with heavy-duty equipment and armed security sometimes visible from the heavily trafficked Pegga Road. A perimeter fence has been erected, a foundation laid and the structure has begun to take shape. There has also been a path cleared from near the gate of Irwin School and a gate installed, providing another entrance to the area.
In December, CHEC paved the once pothole-riddled Pegga Road and a section of Fairfield Road leading to A&E Construction Ltd’s Fairmont Estates, for which CHEC is also the contractor. It now has decent roads on which to move its equipment and staff for the two projects. Neighbouring communities such as Cashew Grove, Meadows of Irwin and the under construction Union Acres have benefited from the improved road surface. The handover of the lab to The UWI is another example of CHEC’s efforts to build goodwill in the area.
As the university waits for the lab to become available, it continues to pursue other areas of development.
Speaking to general plans for the western campus, Williams told Observer West that part of its focus will be on tapping into educational opportunities presented by the tourism industry.
“When you look at the location of the campus, we’re basically in the belt of the tourism sector and so we would like to see the campus become a much more integrated part of the tourism fabric of western Jamaica,” he said.
The goal, the administrator added, will be to train students for roles in the global tourism market as well as the local one. They are also looking at other ways to boost their offerings.
“This is a great location for us to bring international students to focus significantly on areas of global health which has to do with medical training, physical therapy, speech therapy, nutrition, etc,” Williams divulged.
“We want to build out the infrastructure, we want to build out the programmes, we want to integrate more students from international markets here at the western Jamaica campus,” he added.
He said the campus has been doing well, providing support for the main campus at Mona in Kingston. He believes that support will be even more pivotal as they have “almost reached capacity at Mona”.
“Our next growth frontier will have to be here so we want to see, over the next decade or so, more international students, more attractive programmes, better facilities for the Western Jamaica Campus (WJC),” Williams stressed.
While he anticipates great things ahead, he took time to highlight the progress that has already been made.
“WJC has its own niche; it is really holding its own. We’ve been able to grow student numbers to almost 800 or 900 students and consistently maintain that number. Even after COVID we have seen where numbers fell but we are almost back up there, so it is holding its own,” he noted.